by Colin Smith
Local businessman Simon Boersma, who this week announced his intention to run for Mayor in Morinville’s election this fall, has a unique background.
One of eight kids, Boersma was born in the Netherlands and immigrated with his family to Canada. They first settled in Ontario, before they moving in 1976 to Lethbridge, where he finished high school.
After high school things took an unusual turn. Boersma moved back to Europe and began smuggling Bibles into Eastern Bloc countries, living a double life at age 19 and in dangerous situations.
“There are many times when I thought that it was my time to go to jail, yet I never landed there,” Boersma says.
But he wanted to eventually marry and raise a family, so he moved back to North America, first to Lethbridge and then on to Montana for further education.
Studying in Montana led to a trip to Haiti and Trinidad, where he was exposed to the vast differences in how many people live compared to the developed countries, sparking a lifelong commitment to philanthropy.
Among the issues in which Boersma has been involved include the 1980 Ethiopian hunger crisis, the Romanian orphan crisis and the Aids crisis in South Africa.
The last ten years have taken him to communities in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan, where he met with leaders to resolve the issues of clean water and the building of cookstoves.
In addition to pursuing his philanthropic endeavours, Boersma became involved in the construction industry.
He has now lived and conducted business in Morinville for many years, operating Pleasant Homes.
A desire to see the community thrive lead to him joining the boards of the Morinville Chamber of Commerce, Modular Housing Association of Prairie Provinces and Rotary Club of Morinville, as well as the Sturgeon Economic Development Advisory Board and those of his church and overseas community work organizations.
The idea of becoming involved with local politics has intrigued Boersma for some time.
“It started when I was serving on the Morinville Chamber of Commerce board,” he said. “Sitting in the gallery at several Council meetings and being friends with Councillors gave me a glimpse of local politics.”
As a mayoral candidate, Boersma feels that the community is strong but he has concerns about Morinville’s financial direction.
“Tax planning is something that comes to the forefront,” he said. “With our Mayor and several members of council willing to raise taxes while other regional municipalities are lowering or keeping their taxes at zero, we need to have a long-term tax plan that makes sense.”
Boersma also worries that Morinville is not keeping pace with neighbouring municipalities.
“We as a town are part of a larger region that has had a growth pattern that we as a community did not see,” he said. “I will be seeking the advice of other members in the region and have that team spirit as we move forward.”
In January of 2020, Boersma appeared before Council to make a presentation on behalf of a group of individuals advocating that Morinville amalgamate with Sturgeon County and neighbouring towns. He continues to see that as a potentially beneficial alternative.
“The question about amalgamation was at the council table some time back, I do believe that the CAO brought back information to council,” he said. “This information should be brought back in light of subsequent conversations held by council. Whether city, town or hamlet status. Informing and consultation with the taxpayers about the three options presented will be important.”
Lack of transparency in the conduct of Town business is also an issue, he believes.
“[Why] do we have so many in-camera meetings?” he asks. “Are the residents getting the whole story? There is a communications breakdown in our town.”
A critical goal is fostering an environment conducive to economic growth both for residents and businesses. Determining specific measures to achieve that goal will require consultation with community members, Boersma says.
Community cohesiveness and teamwork are key, and that would be reflected in his approach to Town Council.
“My strategy as a mayor is to work with Councillors that have individual strengths that make a strong team,” he said. “This team will be bringing our community forward into our future.”
Boersma is seeking to “make Morinville a better place to live, raise a family and grow your business.”
“As a leader, I do believe that with a strong team and a long-term vision for our community we are able to forge ahead. It is our time to flourish.”
During his campaign, Boersma is planning a number of pop-up tent events to connect with residents at a time when going door-to-door is not possible due to Covid.
The first such event will take place Saturday, May 29 from noon to 4 pm in the parking lot area at 9918-100 Street, near Sturgeon Brewing. Alberta Health Services guidelines will be followed.